"Sound Beats Print ... Pictures Beat Sound"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How I Became A " Flying Squirrel "

Bob The Juggie

In the spring of 1978, I was busy drinkin' myself to death in Estes Park, Colorado. My friend Lewis, was engaged in the same effort, but I was having far more success. Then one day Lewis disappeared, nothing unusual for a town like Estes, people come and go in the mountains constantly. Later on in August he showed up at The Wheel Bar, buying people beers, wearing new jeans, and a big ole' Nepalese Temple Ball in his front pocket. He had been driving a lumber truck in Estes, so I sensed that he had made a career change. Over David Bowie singing " Fame " for the zillionth time I shouted. " Lewis what are you doin' ?"
" Robert, I'm jumpin' outa helicopters in Utah, and scaring the shit out of the wild life."

Lewis then proceeded to tell me how he'd got on with a company called Mountain Geophysical, and how they were exploring for oil and gas on a huge geological formation in the western U.S. called the Over Thrust Belt. Like many American males before me, the idea of joining a boom sounded like the cure to my present situtation, so I told him to get in touch if an opening came up. I had just about forgotten the whole affair, when in September, a message came on a Thursday evening via a mutual friend saying, " Be in Morgan Utah on Monday morning at the Como Springs Resort by 6:00 am...... I was two hours late, but I got the job. The next day, I took my helicopter safety lesson at Lost Canyon Reservoir. Being a new hire with zero geophysical experience, I was assigned to the " Jug Line ". Perhaps a little background is in order here on what oil exploration is, and why we were looking for oil in the mountains on the " backside " of the Wasatch Front.

If you drop a rock, or an earthquake happens, there are two types of waves produced. Makes no difference on the size of the amount of energy produced, each event sends out these waves in the earth. They are called :
P Waves..... The Primary set of waves produced by the event. These waves travel fast through the earth, are high frequency, and always arrive at point on the surface first.
S Waves ..... The Secondary set of waves produced by the event. These waves travel more slowly through the earth, are low frequency, and arrive after the P wave.
Because of this, a great deal of information can be learned about what the earth looks like on the inside. As each set waves moves through rock some hit different layers and bounce off the layers, and return to the surface. This is why the USGS can say that an earthquake was at so and so location, was X miles deep, and was X size in power, and happened X hours ago. It can also tell an oil company that a geological formation known as a trap is present. Now, the people watching Mt. St. Helens for example, have geophones set out to record the activity of the volcano. These are big single set-ups, and a few will work for watching the mountain. Seismic exploration companies use thousands of little geophones { See inset photo above } all wired together on strings. These geophones are called "Jugs", the crew people that lay them out are called " Juggies ".

When the search for oil was just getting started a lot of snake oil was passed off as a sure fire way to find where to drill for the stuff. One of these ways was called a " Doodle Bug " as the seismic industry developed this nickname stuck to seismic crews, and they became " Doodle Buggers".

This whole technology was invented in the 1930's, but was limping along until the Vietnam War came along. This is how we "heard" the North Vietnamese coming down the Ho-Chi-Min Trail. In the beginning, these recordings were very crude and hard to read, but as the electronic/computer revolution moved along the "pictures" coming from the earth got better and better. Some assumptions about how different rocks affected the P & S waves were always baked into the cake. Then in the late 70's some very smart computer people in Denver working for the Anschutz Corporation asked if these assumptions were true. They weren't, and bingo. The " pictures " coming from the earth came into a much sharper focus. Suddenly, the extremely complex geology of the Over Thrust Belt was seen for the first time at depth, and huge gas deposits were found at great depths. The boom was on. Fortunately for me this party was still roaring a long when I showed up " Behind The Mormon Curtain ".

These mountains had been explored for years, the problem had been getting the energy source to make the P & S waves. I saw places deep in the woods where a crew had pulled truck drills through the woods with bull dozers. Then crews would explode 150 lbs, of dynamite on the surface. The French, who were leaders in this field, even experimented with dropping huge concrete blocks, and chunks of lead out of helicopters. Now, that's all fine and dandy if you're on private land, but Uncle Sam owned most of the real estate in question, and they frowned on blowing up 150 lbs. of 60% high velocity nitropel every 330 ft. through the woods. Like Lewis said, it " Scares the shit out of the wildlife ". But it was done and done a lot. Companies experimented with all kinds of man portable drills to bury the explosives, not out of a real concern for the woods, but a real need to get the "Boom" buried as deep as possible in order to get good readings from the shot. There was a problem with this tack, where we were looking has the word Rocky in it. Mountain Geo. was the first to develop small helicopter portable drills that could actually make holes in the Rockies.

The HP #2 shot hole drill Opened up millions of acres to oil exploration, 30 days after our crews went through the woods, you could never tell we had been there. { The L.Z. at Morgan Utah } >>>

The HP drill set up on a hole, ready for the next day. The red object on the left is support basket it carried ..... drill bits, pipe, dynamite, 25 gals of gas, ATF, loading poles, tools etc. That thing was the heaviest object we fooled with,,Some weighed as much as 1,300 lbs. You haven't lived until one of those comes down through the trees, rotating on the end of a 100' long line, and when it finally gets within reach .... you touch it and it shocks the shit out of ya ...... I mean it'll " Wilt your Lily".

Next time ..What we didn't say at the safety lesson's

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